International

Eventual Eurozone reform and improving Russian/European relations

Speech by Lord Owen to the Progress Foundation’s 43rd Economic Conference on ‘Which Future for Europe?’, Zurich, Friday 28 October 2016.

Extracts only. Read the full speech here: zurichspeech2

The EU is wisely, four months on since the UK referendum vote to leave the EU, less inclined to dismiss Brexit as an event of little significance, a matter just for the British. The EU is more likely now, in the wake of Brexit, to start to face long overdue reform….

Defining a core Eurozone involving a Fiscal Union and a Banking Union will have to be openly discussed, as already has been done informally by Germany and the Netherlands. Initially at least with Belgium and Austria. Even if something dire happens to the Eurozone these four countries will ensure that a small Eurozone continues. The question is who will be their partners?

As for France, a lot will depend on the outcome of the French elections. But for the first time, whereas it would have been automatic in the past that Germany would insist on French membership, there may not be the level of public support after the elections in Germany to include France initially.

It is very unlikely that German public opinion will accept any system of automatic money transfers to Italy….

Other countries that would want to be part of a core Eurozone are Spain and Ireland. Finland in the past would have expected to be a member; perhaps not now. Luxembourg will want to participate but they, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta, may need to face tax haven questions first as it is very undesirable that any unacceptable practices should be inherited by a new Fiscal and Banking Union…..

The core Eurozone countries cannot throw a number of countries out of the Eurozone given the practical politics of the EU. What they can do is make them ineligible to be part of a core because of the way that core has fixed the initial criteria for a Fiscal and Banking Union. The weakest economies would become more vulnerable to speculative moves aimed at destabilising some of their economies, but if they can ride out speculation they might be able to stay in the Eurozone even though they were not protected as would be members of the core. Aware of their vulnerability and anticipating such speculation, some might prefer to leave rather than await being forced to decide to leave at a time of crisis. The best outcome would be if Italy voluntarily chose to leave the Eurozone for they would have the power to lead a serious restructuring of the EEA and ensure it was not unduly influenced by core Eurozone members. And others like Greece and Portugal might follow.

A core Eurozone will not be a North-South Eurozone in the sense of a formal geographical divide, though this may be the appearance. A divide will happen because of the design and disciplines of the core. Some countries that stay in the Eurozone and make the transition will be able to qualify to be part of the Fiscal Union and Banking Union over time. In effect this core will become a federal Europe.

… Besides Eurozone reform, there is the need to face up to President Obama’s criticism that Europe is “freeloading” within NATO and the disappointing record of the European External Action Service, EEAS.

… Only in a revived NATO, where European countries are no longer as President Obama rightly accused us of being ‘freeloaders’, and we make a greater financial contribution, will Europe redress the imbalance between us and President Putin’s Russian Federation.

Read the full speech here: zurichspeech2

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Turkey should be helped to intervene over Aleppo.

“The humanitarian imperative is for the region to act and the world to help.”

Read the full piece as carried by the WorldPost section of the Huffington Post here: syriahuffpost27-9-16

Extracts: In repeated interviews and articles on the deepening tragedy that is Syria, many carried by the Huffington Post, I have argued that a necessary element for peace in Syria is an initial partition or zones of influence from neighbouring states.

This has not been a fashionable view in diplomatic circles in most countries wedded to the concept of keeping Syria as a unified country. Turkey in particular was understandably very reluctant to move militarily across the border into Syria.

When Russia extended an airfield close to Latakia not far from the naval port they had had in Syria since 1971, and put sophisticated airplanes in to protect the Assad forces, everything changed…..

Only Turkey is in a political and military position to intervene on the ground in Syria and they have demonstrated this by a limited cross border initiative this summer against ISIL. But Turkish tanks were also pre-empting a planned Kurdish advance. Turkey can now because of changed circumstances create a crucial balancing factor in Syria by taking urgent humanitarian action with their troops and air power in relieving the siege of Aleppo…

Potentially in NATO there is the necessary support for such an intervention by Turkey. But since the failed military coup against President Erdogan in Turkey, a very damaging strain emerged in NATO’s relations with their fellow member, namely the role in this latest coup of the Iman Fethullah Gulen.

…..On Friday 23 September Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag announced in Istanbul that US Vice President Joe Biden had accepted that there is “concrete evidence” that Gulen was behind the failed coup. Assuming there is substantive evidence in relation to Gulen the political path is therefore open for early and decisive action over Syria between Washington and Ankara.

Turkish military action should and could be mounted within hours of a decision by President Erdogan to move a considerable number of Turkish tanks, artillery and ground to air missiles into Syria within range of Assad forces around Aleppo. They would have the power to implement a No Fly Zone crucially given what is already happening in the air from the ground with protected land corridors for humanitarian aid and the flow of people both ways into Aleppo. This should be accompanied by a demand for the withdrawal of Assad forces to a line between Hama and Aleppo..

NATO forces would guard Turkey as they conducted this humanitarian operation. Air activity outside the NFZ would continue against ISIL in Syria and Iraq by Russia, NATO and Assad forces. A Kurdish area of influence in Syria in relation to ISIL would continue de facto. Areas of influence would apply, if they are prepared to exercise them, by Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan over the borders of Syria predominantly against ISIL. This whole initiative should be discussed at the highest military level in the NATO-Russian Council before going to the Security Council.

When the time is ripe, UN supervised elections should take place in Syria and a single government be chosen for a unified but probably federal country. To try to anticipate when this can happen is at present impossible given the complexity of the conflict between anti-Assad Syrian fighters and the nature of ISIL. The humanitarian imperative is for the region to act and the world to help.

 

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Outside a dysfunctional EU with its common defence agenda, we must champion and strengthen Nato

Lord Owen writing for the website brexitcentral.com

….The EU policy paper Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe. A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy was presented to the Heads of Government Brussels summit meeting on 28th June 2016 quickly followed on 13th July by the publication of the German White Paper on German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr. Both papers had been held back deliberately to avoid debate during the UK referendum. These documents are likely to be the defining moment in the creation of a continental United States of Europe and the deepest political reason for the UK voting to leave the EU.

….There are people in the UK who take a largely French view that Europe alone can deal with its own defence, that we do not need the US and need not worry about a decline in NATO. The facts simply do not bear this out in terms of the money EU countries spend, the numbers in the military and the quality and total armaments held. Indeed, it is questionable whether some of our European neighbours have the necessary will and resolve in foreign affairs to make the difficult decisions.

Read the full text here: brexitcentral

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“I mourn the loss of a great Frenchman and fine internationalist.”

Statement by the Rt Hon Lord Owen following the death of his friend, former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard, on 3 July 2016.

“Michel was my friend of the heart and the brain for fifty years. We agreed on a social democracy for the 21st Century. We believed in Europe as an enriching entity in all its many manifestations. For him Europe would be a supranational political design; for me a grouping of states. On that difference there were many arguments. In Paris this Spring on a European Mouvement political platform we spoke together in unison. The time had come for the EU and the Eurozone to be a United States of Europe and for Britain to leave the EU but with our friendship with France enhanced by that process. I am glad that he lived to see that British decision. But I mourn the loss of a great Frenchman and fine internationalist.”

For further French citation available here: Michel Rocard : Un grand Français et un internationaliste subtil

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If the UK leaves the EU, we can champion Nato and put the resources we currently spend on EU defence and foreign policy into Nato and global diplomacy.

Letter to The Times, Wednesday 4 May 2016.

Read the full text here: TimesLetter 4.5.16

Extracts: If the EU pushes ahead with the idea of two centres for defence in the EU, one in the EU and one in Nato, as the recent leaked German proposals imply, then we can expect to see the day that the United States withdraws its commitment to Europe.

….it is utter pretension to think that the EU can mirror the defence capabilities of a united single country – unless of course, as many of us believe, it is yet one more step towards a United States of Europe.

…If, as I hope, the UK decides to leave the EU, we can be the champion of Nato and put the resources we currently spend on EU defence and foreign policy into Nato and global diplomacy.

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Outside the EU, the UK has a unique opportunity to shield itself from a future collapse in the Eurozone by starting to negotiate global trading arrangements and improving our competitiveness and simultaneously demonstrating a greater commitment to NATO. 

Lord Owen addressing Princeton University conference on ‘Europe and the challenges of Brexit’: 15 April 2016

Excerpts: When you are a member of a dysfunctional organisation like the EU that can neither reform nor restructure you have two choices: either to reluctantly remain in the organisation or be brave enough to leave. That is the choice that faces individual British voters on 23 June.

President Obama’s first Secretary of the Treasury has used some very tough language about the Eurozone in his book Stress Test published in 2014. In writing about 2010 he says, “The second drag on our recovery was Europe, which was in financial and economic disarray,” and “the European mess was a serious threat to us.”….”The sudden panic in Europe was shocking.”….”Now Europe was burning again, and it did not seem to have the tools or the desire to control the fire. The Eurozone was sixteen [now 19] nations with sixteen fiscal policies and sixteen banking systems,..”

Geithner writes in words with which I totally agree. “For all the flaws of the U.S. system, our fragmented regulatory agencies were at least part of the same nation, with a common language and traditions. And we routinely transferred resources to economically weak regions through our national budget.”

…. The U.S. Defense Department for decades has been hostile to EU “common defence” and to “autonomous defence” in the EU as well as to having two planning centres for defence in Europe, one in the EU and one in NATO. That is no secret and a factual judgement which I and many other people in Britain share.

….President Obama in his recent interview for the Atlantic magazine, correctly, and in the view of many Europeans rightly, openly criticised us in Europe for ‘freeloading’ on the NATO defence budget. It is clearly not tolerable for the U.S. voters that they should pay 73% or 75% of the NATO budget. That direction of travel has got to be corrected and soon. But it will not be done by the EU.

While the EU is dysfunctional, NATO is not.

Read the full text here:PrincetonUK PRESS RELEASE

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The case for a new start for Britain grows stronger by the day. The Dutch vote should encourage voters in the UK to vote to leave in our referendum.

Lord Owen speaking at a Civitas seminar on EU foreign and defence policy, 7 April 2016:

Just as in 2005 when the Dutch voted down Giscard d’Estaing’s Constitutional Treaty, they have now blocked ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. No-one, not even the Prime Minister, can say that the Dutch vote is anti-European.  It is anti the dysfunctional EU that is dragging Europe down in its economic performance and its foreign and security policy. The French will be even more reluctant to risk a referendum to reform the euro and so the euro crisis will go on, reform will be shelved, relative stagnation continue. The case for a new start for Britain grows stronger by the day. The Dutch vote should encourage voters in the UK to vote to leave in our referendum.  There is another Europe that is starting to emerge and it is one which the UK can work happily with.

Britain must give primacy to NATO and demonstrate to Americans that we in Europe will not continue to be ‘freeloaders’. In the process we will ditch the pretence of a European foreign policy that bears a heavy responsibility for the mess we are in over the Ukraine.”

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How the Syrian Conflict Could Lead to a Clash Between Russia and NATO

Speech  to International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance students, Chateau de Bossey, Geneva, Tuesday 23 February, 2016

“The humanitarian crisis in Syria has gone on so long ….. that we can lose sight of the military dangers that are now threatening the Middle East…

“It has long been feared in NATO that the Syrian crisis would spill over into a wider war, but that moment is closer now than it has ever been before….

“NATO needs to establish two clear positions.

  • Firstly, they will not become embroiled as an alliance in fighting on the ground in Syria.
  • Secondly, they will, however, respond to any attack that threatens the territorial integrity of Turkey.

Without clarity on these two issues it seems there is a real danger of a geopolitical military spill over. It maybe that nothing can prevent a regional war.”

Read the full text here:Potential for Russia-NATO conflict

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